It’s no secret that President Shimon Peres is very fond of Israeli music and theater. For most people it might have been somewhat nerve-racking to try to figure out what to give an 87-year-old man for his birthday, particularly if that man happens to be the head of State. For the powers-that-be at the Cameri Theater it was a breeze.
Combining two of the president’s leisure-time pleasures, they put together a variety show of story and song that highlights the signposts of Peres’s long and multifaceted career as a public servant.
The only real problem they had was in making a final decision about who
would participate in the lineup because so many celebrities from the
entertainment industry wanted to be part of the show.
Master of ceremonies will be actor Natan Datner, who performed the same
task last year at Tel Aviv’s Duhl Center for the Performing Arts in the
Hatikva neighborhood, where Peres – whose poetry has been set to music –
was made an honorary member of The Israel Union of Performing Artists,
which had organized his 86th birthday bash. He also received honorary
membership from the Association of Composers and Musicians.
While it was a great show, it didn’t quite equal Peres’s 80th birthday
celebration at the Mann Auditorium where Bill Clinton and Liel Kolet had
serenaded Peres with John Lennon’s song “Imagine.”
Among the celebrities who will be appearing on Monday, August 16, are
Eyal Golan, Amos Oz, Riki Gal, Miri Mesika, Shiri Maimon, Yardena
Arazi, Lea Koenig, Boaz Mauda, Avi Toledano, Kabra Kasai, Maharta
Baruch, Mira Awad, Hedva Amrani, Tomer Sharon, Maya Feingold, the Cameri
Youth Ensemble and others.
The show will represent not only landmarks in the president’s life but
also the ingathering of the exiles, in that the performers come from an
extremely broad cross section of Israel’s immigrant communities.
Lea Koenig, for instance, will take Peres back to his childhood with the
Yiddish song “Oifn Pripitchuk” (By the fireside). There will be songs
from the time he was on kibbutz, such as “Hayu Leilot” (There were
Nights), and Tomer Sharon will allude to the creation of Israel’s
military industries and atomic reactor when he sings “Totzeret Ha’aretz”
(Made in Israel). Avi Toledano will present a medley of French songs,
to signify the special relationship between Israel and France forged by
Peres more than half a century ago. And of course there will be songs
about peace and video clips of significant events in which Peres was
Actually, it will be difficult to distinguish between the president’s
personal story and that of the State of Israel.
Organizers of the event anticipate many emotional moments, among them a
speech by Shai Gross, who was one of the Israelis captured by German and
Palestinian terrorists in 1976 and held hostage at Entebbe Airport
Terminal in Uganda. Gross was six years old at the time, and Peres was
Peres was actually born on August 2, but his family along with the
entertainment industry have always celebrated his birthday on August 16 –
and this year is no exception.